William Gouge, Of domestical duties
Text from: the third, revised, edition, 1634 (first published in 1622).
The epistle dedicatory
To the right honourable, right worshipful, and other my beloved parishioners, inhabitants of the precinct of Blackfriars, London, such sufficiency of grace as may bring them to fullness of glory.
Oh, if the head and several members of a family would be persuaded every one of them to be conscionable in performing their own particular duties, what a sweet society and happy harmony would there be in houses! What excellent seminaries would families be to church and commonwealth! Necessary it is that good order be first set in families: for as they were before other polities, so they are somewhat the more necessary: and good members of a family are like to make good members of church and commonwealth.
I remember when these Domestical duties were first uttered out of the pulpit, much exception was taken against the application of a wife's subjection to the restraining her from disposing the common goods of the family without, or against, her husband's consent. But surely they that made those exceptions did not well think of the Cautions and Limitations which were then delivered, and are now again expressly noted, which are: that the aforesaid restraint be not extended to the proper goods of a wife, no nor over-strictly to such goods as are set apart for the use of the family, nor to extraordinary cases, nor always to an express consent, not to the consent of the husbands as are impotent, or far and long absent. If any other warrantable caution shall be showed me, I will be as willing to admit it, as any of these. Now that my meaning may not still be perverted, I pray you in reading the restraint of wives' power in disposing the goods of the family, ever bear in mind these cautions. Other exceptions were made against some other particular duties of wives. For, many that can patiently enough hear their duties declared in general terms cannot endure to hear those general exemplified in their particular branches. This cometh too near the quick and pierceth too deep. But (to interpret all according to the rule of love, in better part) I take the main reason of the many exceptions which were taken to be this: that wives' duties (according to the apostle's method) being in the first place handled, betrayed what a wife in the uttermost extent of that subjection under which God hath put her is bound unto, in case her husband will stand upon the uttermost of his authority: which was so taken as if I had taught that an husband might and ought to exact the uttermost, and that a wife was bound in that uttermost extent to do all that was delivered as duty, whether her husband exact it or no. But when I came to deliver husbands' duties, I showed that he ought not to exact whatsoever his wife was bound unto (in case it were exacted by him) but he ought to make her a joint governor of the family with himself and refer the ordering of many things to her discretion, and with all honourable and kind respect to carry himself towards her. In a word, I so set down an husband's duties as, if he be wise and conscionable in observing them, his wife can have no just cause to complain of her subjection. That which maketh a wife's yoke heavy and hard is an husband's abuse of his authority and more pressing his wife's duty than performing his own, which is directly contrary to the apostle's rule. This just apology I have been forced to make, that I might not ever be judged (as some have censured me) an hater of women. Now, that in all those places where a wife's yoke may seem most to pinch, I might give some ease, I have to every head of wives' duties made a reference, in the margin over against it, to the duties of husbands answerable hereunto, and noted the reference with this mark that it might be the more readily turned unto...